The first account I followed on Instagram was Cake & Loaf Bakery. Each post was deserving of a groan of pleasure, urging me to race to the bakery and indulge.
It turns out “groans of pleasure” was the standard to which they took every recipe both in taste and visual appeal.
In their first cookbook — “Cake & Loaf” — owners Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham promise to satisfy your cravings, sharing 85 recipes for everyday baking and special treats.
The pair met during their pastry apprenticeship at Niagara College and considered their coffee date, four years later, as “entrepreneurial love at first sight.” They teamed up, renovating a turn-of-the-century house for the bakery. Opened in 2011, it was based on four principles – Local, Healthy, Responsible and Delicious.
“Healthy” was broadly interpreted to include the valuation of mental health, offering employees a safe work environment with a living wage supporting work-life balance.
Ingredients are local and also “healthy” with respect to quality, usually combined to create sweets that are decadent and often whimsical, with sprinkles appearing frequently. They don’t take themselves too seriously and as Rudderham says, “a sense of fun is important” and part of their brand.
That the cookbook project occurred during the pandemic was a coincidence. Over the years, they had, at times, felt protective of their recipes but, approached by Penguin, they came to embrace the idea that, “if we can inspire people to jump in the kitchen and create an awesome baked good…. (we were) all for it.” They describe it as an adventure both unexpected and humbling.
The cookbook opens with their background story and sections on baking advice, and essential tools/equipment. Conceived as a family cookbook, it’s organized somewhat on a continuum that ranges from accessible recipes that anyone could tackle to some that are more complex for bakers who want to be challenged.
Miller — who brings the “cake” talent and became curious about baking watching her mom — was on a pathway to study kinesiology until a high school co-op ignited the passion that pulled her into this line of work.
Rudderham brings the “loaf” skills with her breadmaking and pastry talents (though the bakery no longer makes bread daily). She grew up loving food and recounts how in high school she tried to put food into school projects to get a better mark—for example, an Economics project on rice for which she served sushi.
Both acknowledge the pandemic challenges and are proud of how they supported staff. They encourage readers to support small businesses in any/all ways possible, a sentiment that reflects their “desire to give more than we take from our community.”
The cookbook includes recipes for popular cookies such as Funfetti, Campfire, S’mores and their iconic cookies with bacon.
Cake & Loaf’s Bacon Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Let’s be honest, everything’s better with bacon — real bacon from your local butcher or, even better, bacon cured at home. None of that preservative-laden, moisture-injected grocery store bacon for these cookies, please. Swapping bacon fat for some of the butter in these cookies really gives them a smoky richness that balances so well with the semisweet chocolate. If you cannot get enough of that salty and sweet balance, try topping the cookies with flaky sea salt for an extra-salty boost.
1½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ pound (225 g) bacon, cooked and chopped into ½-inch pieces, fat reserved
6 to 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and warm
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 mL) packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (250 mL) good-quality semisweet chocolate chunks
1 to 2 tbsp flaky sea salt (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Sift the flour and baking soda into a small bowl and stir together.
In a small glass bowl or measuring cup, combine up to two tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat with enough melted butter for eight tablespoons (½ cup) total. If the mixture cools, warm it in the microwave.
In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and warm butter and bacon fat mixture until smooth and there is no oily film left around the edges.
Whisk in the egg and vanilla, adding a little air, until the mixture is smooth and is light in colour.
Stir the flour mixture, chocolate chunks, and bacon chunks into the wet ingredients and mix until no dry flour remains. Be careful not to overmix.
Scoop 13 1½-tablespoon portions of cookie dough onto each prepared baking sheet, leaving ample space between them. Sprinkle the flaky sea salt (if using) over the cookies before baking. Bake one sheet at a time, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown and golden brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.
Makes 26, 3-inch cookies
Recipe excerpted from “Cake & Loaf,” by Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham, by arrangement with Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada. Copyright © 2022 Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham. Photography by Nickey Miller. All rights reserved.
Cake and Loaf Bakery
321 Dundurn St. S., Hamilton
Hours: Wednesday to Friday noon to 6 pm; Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
What I paid: Lemon Poppyseed Loaf $3; Butter Tart $3.50; Cookies $3.50; Peanut Butter Crunch $3